How could a good God allow slavery?

I received a question about Old Testament regulations regarding slavery.  The critic questioned how a good God could regulate rather than ban outright the practice of slavery.

My response is below:

There are a few things that we should clarify in approaching this question.

First, slavery in the Old Testament is not a challenge to the Moral Argument.  At best it might be a challenge to the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, but it could not even issue in the conclusion that Christianity is false.

Second, regulating something is not the same as endorsing it.  The federal government in the USA regulates tobacco products, but this is not the same as endorsing the tobacco industry.  Laws that describe what one can and cannot do with slavery serve to limit the scope of what is possible.

Thirdly, there were no safety nets against poverty in ancient Israel.  Often slavery was used as a way to avoid starvation or abject poverty.

Fourthly, slavery in ancient Israel was not as bad of a situation as it was in the southern United States.  Consider how the chapter you referenced ends in Leviticus 25.  It includes a process for a slave who has become wealthy as a slave can purchase his own freedom from his master.  Consider what is taken for granted by the author and the audience; the slave accrues personal wealth for which the master does not have any legal right.  This is completely foreign to the American concept of slavery, and it is taken for granted by the author of these laws.

I would take a look at Is God a Moral Monster? by Paul Copan, as he addresses this topic specifically as well as many other concerns in the Old Testament.

Matt Bilyeu

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